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Social Justice

Child Marriage and Pandemic

  • 15 Dec 2020
  • 6 min read

Why in News

According to a report published by ChildLine India the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have proved to be new drivers of child marriages in rural Madhya Pradesh.

Key Points

  • Important Findings by ChildLine India:
    • Madhya Pradesh recorded 46 child marriages between November 2019 and March 2020, a figure that jumped to 117 in just three months of the lockdown from April to June 2020.
    • Across India 5,214 child marriages were reported in the first four months of lockdown between March to June.
  • Causes:
    • Age Factor:
      • Some parents consider the age period of 15-18 as unproductive, especially for girls, so they start finding a match for their child during this age period.
      • Underaged girls are more prone to child marriage than boys.
        • The Right To Education Act makes education free and compulsory up to the age of 14 only. Research shows that after a girl is taken out of school at the age of 15, there is a strong possibility of her getting married at an early age.
    • Insecurity:
      • Law and Order are still not able to provide a secure environment for the girls in adolescent age, so some parents get their girl child married at a young age.
    • Lack of Education:
      • Girls are often seen with limited economic roles. Women’s work is confined to the household and is not valued.
      • In addition, there is the problem of dowry. Despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited for five decades (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), it is still common for parents of girls in India to give gifts to the groom and /or his family either in cash or kind.
    • Causes for Increase during Pandemic:
      • Economic pressures due to the pandemic have pushed poor parents to marry off girls early.
      • With no schools, safety of children, particularly girls, was a major reason for increase in violence against children and child marriages.
  • Impact:
    • Child Marriage is associated with higher rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV.
    • Delays Demographic Dividend:
      • Child Marriage contributes to larger families and in turn, population growth. This delays demographic dividend that would have come from reduced fertility and investment in education.
    • Children married at a young age do not understand the responsibilities of marriage. This results in a lack of understanding among family members. Hence, disturbs the institution of the family.
  • Impact on Child Bride:
    • Violation of rights:
      • Married at a young age, girls get deprived of their basic rights. Some of the basic rights as mentioned in the Convention on the Rights of Child include Right to Education, Right to Rest and Leisure, Right to Protection from Mental or Physical Abuse including Rape and Sexual Exploitation.
    • Poor Socialization:
      • Child Brides often have to give up their education due to household responsibilities. It is said that if the women of a house are educated, she, in turn, educates her family. But if she is uneducated, she loses on to the opportunity to educate her own children.
    • Disempowerment:
      • Since child brides are not able to complete their education, they remain dependent and underpowered which acts as a big hurdle towards achieving gender equality.
    • Health Issues:
      • Devastating repercussions on the health of Child Brides, who are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers.
      • According to research, the risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls in the 15 years of age.
      • Also, they have 23% greater risk of disease onset including heart attack, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. They also face a high risk of psychiatric disorders.
  • Government Initiatives to Prevent Child Marriages:
    • The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 restricts the practice of child marriage.
    • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
    • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted to address and fix the shortcomings of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.
    • Union Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a committee to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women. The Committee is headed by Jaya Jaitely.
  • Prevention of Child Marriage is a part of SDG 5 which deals with gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

Childline India foundation

  • It is a non-government organisation (NGO) in India that operates a telephone helpline called Childline, for children in distress.
  • It was India's first 24-hour, toll free, phone outreach service for children
  • CHILDLINE works for the protection of rights of all children aged 0 to 18. Their special focus is on all children in need of care and protection, especially the more vulnerable sections.


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